Tag Archives: 2013

Random Game #26 – Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing [Android]

Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing

When you have a video game collection like mine, it can be hard to play all of the games. This is especially true when additions are made on an almost weekly basis. Still, I appreciate nearly every game I’ve accumulated for this reason or that. In the hopes of improving my writing through continuous effort and promoting ongoing learning of these games, I’m going to compose brief, descriptive articles.

Now didn’t I just discuss a Sonic racing game? What’re the chances I’d get another one this quickly? Actually, it was a 2/1732 or 1/866 so it was quite rare. I acquired this through the Humble Sega Mobile Bundle and like the bulk of that lot, haven’t played this. I have played its sequel on the Wii U though, and it’s pretty good. I don’t find it as polished as a Mario Kart game, but it offers much more variety – specifically in the properties on display. Reading about this title, it appears to do the same, albeit, with a little less than its successor. I’m not too interested in giving this game a shot, especially on Android, but if I found a copy in the wild for a good price, I’d still snatch it up.

Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing was originally developed by Sumo Digital and released for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, and Nintendo DS on February 23, 2010, in North America. A PC port was released a couple of weeks later – March 3, 2010. There was also an arcade version (!?) and mobile ports for iOS (2011), Android (2013), and Blackberry (2013); these were ported by Gameloft. Lastly, a Mac OS X version is available courtesy of Feral Interactive (2013). One more interesting point – the Xbox 360 and Wii versions featured exclusive characters: the Xbox 360 had Banjo and Kazooie (in fact, that version goes under a slightly different name noting that) as well as the Avatar while the Wii version featured Miis.

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Random Game #9 – Surgeon Simulator 2013 [PC]

Surgeon Simulator 2013 AlternateWhen you have a video game collection like mine, it can be hard to play all of the games. This is especially true when additions are made on an almost weekly basis. Still, I appreciate nearly every game I’ve accumulated for this reason or that. In the hopes of improving my writing through continuous effort and promoting ongoing learning of these games, I’m going to compose brief, descriptive articles.

This is an article about Surgeon Simulator 2013. Here’s the deal though, I haven’t actually played it… yet. I’ll get around to it someday – trust me. I, no doubt, acquired it as a part of some Humble Bundle, and honestly didn’t think too much of it until now. I hadn’t heard of it prior to my acquisition and summarily forgot about it afterwards. Having just watched a few videos of the game on Steam though, I’m surprised! It’s not a serious take on surgery, but instead, a “darkly humorous” take on the practice. It appears to have a control scheme similar to Octodad, the goals of Trauma Center, and the parameters of Operation. It looks comical and it’s on my radar now.

Surgeon Simulator 2013 is actually the follow-up to a prototype of sorts that was developed in 48 hours, presumably during a game jam. This title was developed with a little more time – 48 days. The individuals responsible were Tom Jackson, Jack Good, Luke Williams, and James Broadley; otherwise known as Bossa Studios. This game was originally released for PC and Mac on April 19, 2013, and has since seen releases on PlayStation 4, iOS, and Android.

rymdkapsel [Android] – Review

Currently available for a variety of mobile platforms, rymdkapsel is a minimalist RTS.
Currently available for a variety of mobile platforms, rymdkapsel is a minimalist RTS.

The third game from the Humble Mobile Bundle 3 that really clicked with me was rymdkapsel. I enjoyed SpellTower and Ridiculous Fishing a great deal, but I was engrossed with this game – more so than those two. I found the minimalistic design philosophies behind each aspect of the game to be quite interesting and executed wonderfully. As was the case with Ridiculous Fishing, I have had my fill of the game currently, but I imagine I’ll return to rymdkapsel before I return to Ridiculous Fishing.

Confrontation was simple, but I had to plan my approach out before things got to serious.
Confrontation was simple, but I had to plan my approach out before things got to serious.

rymdkapsel is a real-time strategy game with few elements. Initially, I started off on a miniscule space station with two minions and a handful of the game’s three resource types. I commanded the minions and expanded the space station using an intuitive and simple user interface. I dragged and dropped the tetromino rooms and hallways, aiming to develop the space station as efficiently as possible. Enemies attacked in increasingly larger waves as I attempted to complete the game’s three distinct objectives. Success was defined as researching all four monoliths, doing so in less than 45 minutes, and surviving 28 waves.

The different colored rooms indicated their purpose. The green outline is a room being built.
The different colored rooms indicated their purpose. The green outline is a room being built.

My gameplay sessions lasted forty minutes to an hour and it took me a few to even accomplish one objective. Now, as I discussed earlier this year, I’m not the most strategically inclined, so others mileage with rymdkapsel may vary. That said, when I failed I wasn’t distraught. I took my experience into the next session and applied a concept that made itself apparent to me or increased my management efficiency. Of the three games I’ve discussed recently, this was my favorite. The accolades it’s earning from Apple and Google are well-deserved.

Ridiculous Fishing [Andoid] – Review

Vlambeer's most popular game?
Vlambeer’s most popular game?

So another game from the Humble Mobile Bundle 3 that gave me a lot of enjoyment was Ridiculous Fishing. I was aware of the positive press it received when it was released for iOS earlier this year, but I didn’t feel like playing it on my ancient iPod Touch. Luckily, this particular Humble Bundle marked its debut on Android; meaning I had a chance to play it on my tablet. Its gameplay was simple and the feedback loop implemented was rewarding enough to keep me playing until the end.

At first you want get as deep as possible.
At first you want get as deep as possible.

There is a story behind why the avatar, Billy, is fishing although it’s scant and really only consists of a slightly humorous intro and outro. It’s beside the point. The point of Ridiculous Fishing (and its Flash-based predecessor Radical Fishing) is a simple feedback loop. As discussed in this Gamasutra article, the entire premise of the game is based on a feedback loop that keeps the player in the game.

I didn’t think about it until I read the article, but performing well in one of the game’s three distinct sections, leads to better performance in the next. At first, Billy casts his line and attempts to get as deep as possible. Once his lure reaches the bottom or snags a fish, the goal switches to catching as many as possible. Finally, once he’s reeled them in, he thrusts them into the air and blows them into smithereens, getting money. This money can then be spent on various upgrades suited to increasing each cast’s payload. Then rinse and repeat until one finds satisfaction.

Then once once you've reeled a lot in, shoot them for money!
Then once once you’ve reeled a lot in, shoot them for money!

For me, I was satisfied with completing the four stages and reaching the ending. It took me a few hours split amongst multiple bedtime gameplay sessions. I still have a good amount of unlockables and a scant few fish to catch, but I’ve had my fill. The visual style and soundtrack were both unique enough to warrant interest and the faux-Twitter app, Brydr was worthy of a few retweets but above all, the feedback loop and simple gameplay kept me hooked.

The Last of Us [PS3] – Review

Naughty Dog's ending the generation with a showstopper.
Naughty Dog’s ending the generation with a showstopper.

Before BioShock released, I knew very little about it. I heard murmurings that it was going to be an “important” game, but I didn’t pay any mind. Until the week it released. At that point, the hype surrounding the game was deafening; it was a literal echo chamber in the video game portion of the internet I frequented. I went from an ambivalent position regarding BioShock, to one where I needed to play it. Almost immediately, I knew I made the right decision. As you might already intuit, I approached The Last of Us in much the same way, and again, I made the right decision.

After the half-hour introduction, it was already apparent to me that The Last of Us would go down as another “important” video game. In that time span, Naughty Dog gave me a view of what day-to-day life might be like for the primary protagonist Joel, his daughter Sarah and his brother Tommy. This normalcy was brief though and within minutes all hell broke loose in their suburban Texas town. The group was soon on the run in order to survive against their mutated, zombie-like neighbors and townsfolk. Just when it appeared that they had escaped the town to safety, Sarah was accidentally murdered by a man following orders above all else. Whatever semblance of a normal life had already ended for the group, but much of Joel died that day.

Fast forward twenty years and the country, and most likely the world, has seen humanity consumed by a viral fungus that transforms the host into a violent zombie-like creature within days. Although it’s never directly explained what happened in that twenty year period between the introduction and the remainder of the game, it was easy enough to piece together information and interpret the rest. Some pockets of Americans live in complacency in government-controlled quarantine zones and others hoof it in the wilderness. Alone, in groups, or within the ranks of the Fireflies – a revolutionary militia squad wanting a break from the government’s status quo – it’s a tooth-and-nail fight for survival.

It's going to be a long journey.
It’s going to be a long journey.

Joel, and his female cohort Tess, operate somewhere in between. As smugglers living in Boston, they transport goods in and out of the quarantine zone to make a living. Events quickly transpire and they’re confronted with a decision that they don’t get to make. The leader of the Fireflies, Marlene, has something they want, but she needs a favor. She needs them to smuggle a young girl, Ellie, out of the city and into the care of the Fireflies in a safer area. They reluctantly accept and before they make it out, they realize why Marlene wants Ellie to reach a safe haven – she is immune to the fungus. This is unheard of, making Ellie the Holy Grail in a world without hope.

Tess saw that. She bit the dust early on but urges Joel to finish the job and get Ellie where she needs to be. Despite being a hard-ass that wouldn’t take any scruff, Tess seemed idealistic and hopeful for the future. Joel is also a short-tempered hard-ass; however he cares little for anything related to hope. He pisses on the government as much as he does the Fireflies. All he cares about it making it to the next day and it seems the only reason for that was his relationship with Tess. Why else would he slavishly travel halfway across the hellhole that America has become with a girl he doesn’t want to care for? If he is one thing, he’s devoted.

Their relationship changed over the course of the game.
Their relationship changed over the course of the game.

That journey across America comprises the rest of the twenty or so hour campaign. It was a hellish trip for all parties involve; for Joel and Ellie and for me, the player. What made it so for Joel and Ellie were the impossible odds they routinely found themselves up against and the hostility they encountered from the country’s remaining survivors. The highlight of the game for me was probably these survivors they’d run into. The bulk of them were hostile but there were a scant few who allied with Joel and Ellie and aided them on their journey. So many of these characters seemed like real people, with, what I can only imagine were problems I could relate to in the post-apocalypse. That sounds strange – that I feel these video game characters are lifelike – but I guess that’s a testament to the talent at Naughty Dog and the evolution of the medium.

What made the journey hellish for me as the player was the difficulty I encountered. The game’s difficulty could be construed as a continuation of the philosophy present in From Software’s Demon’s Souls, which in turn was a response to criticism of Naughty Dog’s own Uncharted series and other blockbuster video game titles. Regardless of inspiration, the sometimes stressful difficulty is a spot-on match for the always stressful situations Joel and Ellie find themselves in. Through all of their run-ins with enemies, there wasn’t one where I was able to go in guns blazing and succeed. I might get one or two enemies, but their numbers would overtake Joel and Ellie quickly. I had to be smart when approaching a fight because the enemies were. They could hear and see Joel so if I guided him wrong, they’d group up on him and I’d be paying for it.

America has gone back to nature in the twenty years since the outbreak.
America has gone back to nature in the twenty years since the outbreak.

For the most part, I snuck around as much as possible and tried to quietly take out enemies by killing them with a makeshift shiv. If I was ever spotted, I’d use cover to break line-of-sight with the enemy, flanking them so I could use another shiv or resort to a handgun, rifle, or bow. I say that honestly too. Although I didn’t have any trouble coming across ammo on the normal difficulty, or any supplies for that matter, I was always very cautious. I wouldn’t use a health pack until I was able to craft another, unless I direly needed it. Same for the use of Molotov cocktails and smoke bombs; I avoided using these unless an encounter just called for them.

Although the entirety of the game was astounding, the last two sections in particular I thought were brilliant. The first begins with a role reversal for Joel and Ellie as she becomes the protector for a brief period in a harsh Colorado winter. Here the duo encounters David, the leader of a local pocket of survivors and an absolute madman who’s played by none other than Nolan North. The final section sees Joel finally delivering Ellie to the Fireflies but having a change of heart when the circumstances aren’t to his liking. The game ends in a provocative way that prompted my friend and I have long conversations about the decisions made.

This is why I wanted to take out enemies stealthily.
This is why I wanted to take out enemies stealthily.

Just as I felt after completing BioShock, I’m glad I decided to buy into the hype and experience The Last of Us. Naughty Dog crafted a riveting video game that has perhaps set a new high-water mark for video game narrative. The characters and relationships on display were qualitatively better than 99% of any other game out there. The game’s brutal, but honest, gameplay was nothing to warrant as much praise for, but was immensely tuned and enjoyable enough that it didn’t bring the experience down, but amplified it. This is a game that has to be experienced.